There’s times when we all take things for granted and I had an interview this week remind me of one such occasion.

I had gone out to shoot a few photos at a local Special Olympics track and field meet with the idea of getting out of there as fast as I could. As I walked up, they were announcing the start of the 400-meter event. I quickly set up on the third turn with the idea of using the curved lines on the track to make my action shot.

I looked across the infield in time to see a woman with Down Syndrome with a walker begin her journey. It was just her. She would take one step, then move her walker, then take another .... clank, clank, clank, clank. Now I’d love to tell you I saw the immediate value of this true test of the human spirit, but my first thought was, “Man, this is going to take forever.”

As I stood looking through the camera, waiting for my shot, I felt this tug on my shirtsleeve. I looked down and there was a young man with Downs holding this T-shirt up with both hands extended. It took a minute to clue into what he wanted.

“You, you,” he was saying, holding this shirt. He wanted me to have this Region 4 Special Olympic T-shirt because I was going to put a picture of his friend in the newspaper. I am so glad he couldn’t read my thoughts because he would have known the self-centered, demeaning, thoughtless frustration of someone that didn’t have a clue to his friend’s effort.

As she went by, hair just a little matted from the sweat of her effort, smile beaming from her accomplishment, I made my photographs and showed her friend on the infield that day. He smiled, gave me a thumbs up and ran off shouting encouragement. I’ve covered John Elway-Joe Montana shootouts at Mile High Stadium, the first time Dwight Gooden pitched in Denver, saw Julius Irving’s final game at McNichols Sports Arena, but I’ve never seen anything like this.

It took that young woman 45 minutes to circle the track one time, and she finished to a standing ovation with hundreds of friends, athletes and volunteers shouting at the top of their lungs. It was one of the most spectacular exhibitions of the human spirit I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

We as citizens tend to take things for granted, but we have a chance to show our appreciation for the effort and a job well done to the blind community on Saturday, which also happens to be the middle day of Jazz in the Valley.

It’s not a part of Jazz in the Valley, but Tacoma Tide and Spokane Pride will be playing a Beep Baseball game at Rotary Park in Ellensburg. I was thinking wouldn’t that be something if we could get some of the musicians coming to town to play the national anthem?

We could put together an all-star band to play a few songs between innings. I mean think about it, with the amazing musicians on hand this weekend, some real joyful music could by played.

Wouldn’t that be something if we got one of those Mamba lines following the Sidewalk Stompers back up Fifth Avenue to the festival playing, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Imagine showing people whose whole life is all about sound what the world can truly be? I think we’re on to something here.

I still wear that T-shirt sometimes as a reminder of what this world can be like if we just care a little more about the other guy.

Rodney Harwood is a Daily Record staff writer, and a big fan of both music and sports. Contact him at


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